“When I record somebody else’s song, I have to make it my own or it doesn’t feel right. I’ll say to myself, I wrote this and he doesn’t know it!” – Johnny Cash

There’s a big risk of crossing the line between performer and performing seal with cover versions. And as for playing in a “note for note” tribute band, I’d rather be an accountant.

However without  covers I’d  have fewer shows for sure. I’d have missed out on  a shedload of guitar tricks and picked up fewer songwriting skills. I wouldn’t be able to break the ice with audiences who don’t “get” the full-on personal songs the first time round. So I play covers – with a couple of ground rules: no songs I don’t like, and I follow the advice of the Man in Black (see above)

Audience participation in cover songs is a double edged sword. It can lift the mood a whole level. But the regular drunk’s off-key renditions take it close to the edge. And backing audience members  can be a magical mystery tour.  In the break during a cover-band show,  a couple of teenage girl singers perused our setlist.  Delighted to see “Sunshine” listed as an encore, they asked to join in – it was their favourite party turn. What followed 40 minutes later was a bizarre mashup of our “Walking on Sunshine” and their “Ain’t no Sunshine when she’s gone” – Just about got away with it…..

for info on Kathy Freeman shows and a monthly newsletter join here


Kathy Freeman performing her song Serve with Tears live at the 7 Stufen (now the DoDo) Berlin